It's not often that a comic book offers up what seems like true, impossible hopelessness — at least, not at the scale that The Shadow/Batman #4 brings to the table. Continuing the reveal of the Silent Seven's reach, #4 is bathed in frustration and stress in a totally fantastic way. Writer Steve Orlando doesn't let up on the intensity. Each panel brings another sharp intake of breath, another jab to the heart, and an endless stream of questions with terrifying answers.
Damian bounds across the pages full of his classic hubris, but with enough skill to back it up. Orlando continues to employ the traits that we've come to know and (reluctantly) love about the boy wonder — he's really the highlight of this issue. While his father and the Shadow both struggle to figure out who they are and if they're truly in control, Damian exudes confidence. He's the only one who manages to get anything done, even if it's the constant, lurking shadow of his grandfather.
The bouncing acrobatics of Damian smoothly transitions into the darker struggles of Bruce and Lamont. The shift between the groups is dynamic both in writing and in art. Artist Giovanni Timpano really dives into the grittier side of his illustrations, perfect for the stress that mounts as #4 takes a increasingly darker turn. The smug look on Shiwan Khan's face as he plays our heroes like a puppetmaster is absolutely rage inducing — just another sign that Timpano is perfect for this book.
Colorist Flavio Dispenza is also a large part of what makes #4 so successful. The palette difference between Damian, Bruce, and Lamont's panels are striking, yet cohesive. They lend to the feeling of separation that our trio currently faces. Subtly the colors drive the distance into your mind, adding to the panic that Orlando's script has put into play. It's difficult to express just how much pressure is squeezed into each panel.
The Shadow/Batman #4 ends on a note of pure anticipation. Showdowns abound as Damian confronts his grandfather and Bruce struggles to save both himself and his mentor. There are some heartwarming moments that help alleviate some of the anxiety created by the Silent Seven, but for the most part #4 is a mad dash of drama. You'll find yourself dreading, yet desperate for each turn of the page as the story spirals farther and farther into despair.
Can the Dark Knight truly face down such an all-encompassing group of villains? Will The Shadow regain his mind? Can Damian hold his own against the man who made him? I suppose we won't know until issue #5 comes out on February 7th.
In the meantime dive into #4 — just make sure you brace yourself.
The Shadow/Batman #4 is available now for $3.99.